Traditions: The gifts that keep on giving


What does one give the 9-year-old who has everything?

My children — and most of their friends — are the luckiest children in America. Toys and books pack the corners of their home. Camps and chorus and lessons and DVDs and electronics of all shapes and sizes fill their days.

As a result, I cannot possibly be the only parent, grandparent, godmother or aunt who has come to the realization virtually everything to give a child for Christmas has already been given.

How many?

How many different ways — from CD players to iPods — does a kid need to listen to the same three songs from the High School Musical soundtrack anyway?

How many plush toys with their own “virtual world” can one child manage before a virtual nanny (or virtual Prozac) is needed?

How many electronic games barely visible to the naked eye (and destined for many a trip through the spin-cycle post Christmas) can one child play?

What, exactly, do you give a child who has this — and so much more — for Christmas?

Honestly? I suggest you give them the same thing over and over and over again.


I believe the season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is so loved because it is the one time we all return to our roots — along with where those growing roots have taken us.

The holidays are a time when traditions rule. No matter how busy, how grinding, how hectic our everyday lives may be, we take a moment to breathe, remember and to do things “the way we always do.”

Be that caroling and Christmas Mass or watching schmaltzy movies and making rum balls — from scratch!

Big warm snuggle

I think what you should aim to give children for Christmas is love, security, and a certain safe predictability that makes the entire season one big warm snuggle.

Christmas is the time to put “making an effort” back on the Dayrunner. A time to say “I love you!,” “I’ve missed you” and “We shouldn’t wait so long next time!”

It’s the time for family, friends and doing unto others. If you need a little help it’s the time to ask for it, and if you’ve been a little more blessed recently — the time to give it back.


There is no “right” way to celebrate. Each family — each person — finds their way.

I know in my own childhood, we opened our gifts in the near-dark of Christmas morning, then whisked away to my grandfather’s house up north for a massive Christmas brunch that nearly swaybacked the table with it’s scrumptiously excellent excessiveness.

Around noontime we would hop in the car yet again and drive over the river and through the wood (or Interstate 480 as the case may be) to grandmother’s house we go to enjoy yet another impossibly immense meal and more merriment, before finally returning to our own, dark home in the wee hours.

When I tell this story many, many listeners express amazement that I cherished these on-the-go holidays.

A Christmas spent in the CAR? How grim!

To my husband, the only “real” Christmas was one spent close to hearth and home, preferably in the comfort of new Christmas jammies (another fine holiday tradition for many), entertaining the family and friends who dropped in on THEM.

Oh yawn.

To each his Yuletide own I guess.


Of course as time goes on traditions bend, blend and emerge anew. The child who couldn’t imagine staying home became the mother who began longing to do just that.

I embraced a healthy dollop of Mr. Wonderful’s “home is where the heart is” and he, in turn, has embraced my “it’s never too far to drive for family” beliefs.

The Christmas traditions are blended and merged with those of growing families into a fine, new taste of Christmas cheer.

Whether you stay or go, eat turkey or ham, open presents Christmas Eve or heed the advice to “not open until December 25th” — when the wrapping paper has long been crumpled and the boxes hauled off to the curb, the best present you can give your children at Christmas is an understanding of the real reason for the season and tradition, peaceful moments and warm memories too.

Make their own

I like to imagine someday my children will pick and choose from among what I hope are our own, bright, glowing memories and choose a few to take on and make their own.

Remember, love and family traditions are the gifts that always fit, are always in style and keep on giving year after year.

More importantly, they are gifts that, if returned, not only give you much credit, but come back to you again and again.

Not to mention regifting is always very much in style.

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